Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Movie Night

OWINGS MILLS -- The Baltimore Ravens (2-1) took a break from pondering their recent fourth-quarter meltdowns by watching a movie with a happy ending.

Several Ravens players attended a sneak preview Monday night of "The Game Plan" in Owings Mills. The Walt Disney movie stars former WWE wrestler and University of Miami football player Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

He portrays Joe Kingman, a playboy quarterback who is surprised to discover the 7-year-old daughter he never knew he had shows up on his doorstep.

Kingman is described as a serial bachelor, sort of a Joe Namath archetype, known as the life of the party until he has to face the responsibilities of being a father.

Of course, this being a Disney movie, Kingman heroically wins the championship and winds up developing into a good dad.

The Ravens would love to mirror Kingman's successful journey, albeit minus the unexpected baby arrival. They've got enough work cut out for them defending their AFC North title.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Eye 2 Eye with a Buckeye: One on One with Troy Smith

How do you stay mentally and physically ready to play at any moment, during practice and during games? What tricks have you learned?

"To me, football is a game where every player has to make that mistake first where everything is new. The way you get on top of your game you have to make that mistake first and then you learn to not make that mistake the next time that comes up. As a backup, often you don't get that rep in the game, so, mentally, all of your reps are magnified. The study you have to get in is incredible. You have to do even more."

How many reps would you say you get in any given practice?

"The first-team reps, I don't get any. I get a lot of the scout team stuff and I get to rip and run toward the end of the week. This week, I imitated Matt Leinart. Being the third guy, you really don't get any reps. You have to do everything mentally."

What elements of the job of a backup quarterback might surprise people?

"When you see it Monday or Sunday, you see us with a visor or a baseball cap on, but they don't see the mental or physical things you have to do during the game and during the week. They just see you scripting plays. It's a very rigorous week."

Some would say that in some ways you've got one of the best-paid job in sports, in terms of salary versus playing time.
How would you respond to that?

"You can't get upset at people because of that. Everybody has their perception of what's going on. There's a great number of people in this world and if everybody posted their opinion the overall consensus would be very confused. There's nothing you can do about it. There's a lot that goes into every position on the field."

How is your relationship with the starter? What lessons have you learned from him, and how would you describe the more competitive aspects of the relationship?

"I have a great relationship with Steve on and off the field. He's teaching me how to be a professional. He's teaching me how to be a man. We all work as one. Steve being in this league 13 years, as a quarterback, he sees the game entirely differently from me. He sees it the NFL way. He's been the best of the best. Professionalism is everything to me, and that's what he's teaching me."

Describe your role during a game in which you're not playing. Do you act as a de facto coach? Have you ever pointed out anything to the coaches or the starters that's had a concrete on-the-field effect? What was it?

"I script the plays. As a rookie, I might say something to Steve on the sidelines, but it's not really my role to say a ton of things. If I see anything, of course, I will point it out."

Are you recognized in public, or can you keep a pretty low profile? Has anyone ever not believed you were a pro quarterback - a girl at a bar, whatever? Any good stories?

"That happens a lot. That's a credit to the city of Baltimore. The fans know the best of the best of the Ravens and some of the guys on the lower end. For someone to recognize me as a Raven, that means a lot."

What are your best/ most humorous/ most illustrative anecdotes (both on-the-field and off-the-field) from your time as a backup quarterback in the NFL?

"With the team, I can't tell you or I would be in trouble. I can't release that. It's been a great experience so far."

Has it been difficult for you to make the adjustment from being a Heisman Trophy winner to being near the bottom of a depth chart? How is your life different?

"I'm at the bottom of the totem pole. I have that understanding. Accolades are not something that drives me.

“What drives me is getting into a situation that would be best for me and the people that I can represent. Accolades will come as long as you stay even-keel and have a good thought process."

Do you ever think about the many Heisman winners whose NFL careers did not pan out?

“It doesn’t put any pressure on me, and it won’t put any pressure on me. That happened for a reason. We had a good college season, but it’s not about that anymore. It’s about the Baltimore Ravens and what I can do to help."

What do you think you have to work on and improve to start in the NFL one day? How can you get that chance?

"Be consistent, learn the offense and try to make plays. Whenever I get the chance, make the most of it. I need to be patient and when I get the chance make the best of it."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Monday, September 17, 2007


1. The Baltimore Ravens' 20-13 victory Sunday over the New York Jets could be defined as more of a survival than the team thriving against young New York quarterback Kellen Clemens. If not for two dropped potential touchdown catches by Jets wide receiver Justin McCareins with the final one caroming into the hands of Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis for a game-sealing interception, the Ravens at least have to go to overtime. Plus, safety Ed Reed's missed tackle on a 44-yard reception by Jerricho Cotchery set up an earlier touchdown pass to tight end Chris Baker.

2. Despite not having three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Steve McNair in the game due to a pulled groin, the offense was managed well by efficient, albeit unspectacular backup Kyle Boller. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 97.9 quarterback rating. His favorite targets were Derrick Mason and Todd Heap as they combined for 15 catches, 130 yards and a touchdown.

3. The Ravens overcame 11 penalties for 100 yards, including a nearly-costly defensive holding penalty on safety Gerome Sapp on 3rd-and-16 that gave the Jets an automatic first down with 1:55 remaining in the fourth quarter.

4. This time, Heap was the beneficiary of an official's call. One week after his touchdown catch was incorrectly nullified by a referee's offensive pass interference call in a loss to the Bengals, his 4-yard, tip-toeing touchdown catch put Baltimore ahead 17-3 at halftime after an instant-replay review reversed the initial call on the field.

5. Running back Willis McGahee continued his string of owning the Jets, rumbling for 97 yards on 26 carries and catching his first NFL touchdown on a 2-yard swing pass from Boller. The score also marks his inaugural touchdown with the Ravens.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


1. The Baltimore Ravens' cause was ultimately doomed in a 27-20 defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night to open the season because of six turnovers, including three fumbles and an interception by veteran quarterback Steve McNair. One of McNair's fumbles was returned 34 yards for a touchdown. Later, he left the game with a groin injury and didn't return.

2. Backup quarterback Kyle Boller's fourth-quarter pass intended for tight end Todd Heap was intercepted by Michael Myers in a dramatic goal-line stand to seal the win for the Ravens' AFC North rivals. In relief of McNair, Boller completed 2 of 6 passes for 19 yards.

3. Bengals All-Pro quarterback Carson Palmer completed 20 of 32 passes for 194 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 100.3 rating. He was only sacked once.

4. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden left the game after aggravating his hyperextended left big toe. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis was hampered by a triceps injury that team officials compared to a hamstring pull. Return specialist B.J. Sams suffered a major knee injury, and his status for the remainder of the season is in doubt. Tight end Daniel Wilcox sprained his right ankle and was on crutches afterward.

5. Bengals wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson combined for 14 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including Houshmandzadeh's game-winning 7-yard score with 8:48 remaining to regain the lead following safety Ed Reed's 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. Baltimore also committed 10 penalties for 86 yards.

-- Aaron Wilson